Loose parts are those captivating and open-ended materials that invite children (and adults) to create, think critically, represent, transform, and experiment in an unstructured way. They include interesting natural objects like stones, sticks and seeds, as well as up-cycled items like bottle tops, beads, and rivets. They come in a variety of colors, textures, sizes and shapes.
Recently in the Researchers class, we presented a beautiful collection of glass beads, feathers, pipe cleaners, marbles, smooth wood pieces, craft sticks, and over-sized sequins with no specific set of directions. We simply invited the children to explore. Initially there was lots of “messing about” as children dove in to touch and investigate the materials (imagine feathers flying in the air and marbles freely rolling across the floor). After adequate time to explore, the children became more purposeful in their work and began to move objects and arrange them in complex patterns within the frames we provided. They experimented with SPACE, LINE, FORM, PATTERN, and DESIGN. These are high level characteristics of art – a far cry from the one-size-fits-all craft projects traditionally offered to preschoolers.